Idle Observations from a Single Game of Alex Guerrero

The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Cuban emigre and infielder Alexander Guerrero this offseason, with a view (it would seem) towards installing him at second base for the 2014 season. Because Guerrero didn’t participate in the most recent World Baseball Classic and because there’s little in the way of other extant footage of him and because there’s only so much his Cuban league stats can tell us — regardless of how responsibly they’re translated — there’s naturally an air of mystery surrounding him. Indeed, Guerrero’s two plate appearances during the Dodgers’ spring-training opener on Wednesday against Arizona were the first which offered competitive footage of him in any sort of broadly available way.

This isn’t a particularly common occurrence, turns out. Almost every prospect of note has both appeared in a number of televised minor-league games and/or been considered closely by means of footage offered by this or that analyst. Players from Japan and Korea — and even Cuba, actually — have typically participated in international tournaments, such that a reasonably engaged fan of the Pastime has had an opportunity to acquaint himself with most players before those same players have recorded their first ever spring-training at-bat.

For Guerrero, that’s less the case. In light of that, his spring-training start yesterday represented the first opportunity for people like the reader — and other (probably sad) people like the author — to acquaint him-/her-/themselves with Alex Guerrero.

What might one learn from Guerrero’s first two plate appearances? Not much conclusively, of course. Still, as a fan of baseball, I personally don’t need much of an invitation to demonstrate enthusiasm for the debut of a heretofore unknown player.

Below is a pitch-by-pitch examination of Guerrero’s first spring-training game. Each pitch is labeled by a decimaled figure, where the first number represents the number of the plate appearance in question; the second number, the pitch of the relevant plate appearance. Each pitch is also accompanied by commentary of a generally useless nature.

Pitch 1.1

AG 1.1

This is Brandon McCarthy‘s first pitch to Guerrero, from the second inning. It’s unique insofar as it appears to be either a changeup or a curve that maybe backs up a little — which is to say, not a fastball (i.e. the most common kind of first pitch). Perhaps because it’s an offspeed/breaking pitch or because he’s the sort of batter who regularly takes the first pitch of any plate appearances, even if it’s a strike, Guerrero doesn’t swing.

***

Pitch 1.2

AG 1.2b

The second pitch is a fastball — probably a sinker, given McCarthy’s historical pitch tendencies. Despite the fact that said pitch gets quite a lot of the plate, Guerrero takes this one, too. One theory for that: he didn’t think he’d hit it well. A second one: it moved more than he’d anticipated from the outside of the plate. A third: he has no plans to ever swing, even once, in the States.

***

Pitch: 1.3

AG 1.3

This is a curve, pretty far from the strike zone. Guerrero takes, unsurprisingly.

***

Pitch: 1.4

AG 1.4

This is almost the precise pitch as above in terms of velocity and break, but located much more ably by McCarthy and caught well by Miguel Montero. Once again, Guerrero takes… and strikes out, actually. That’s four total pitches, then, of which three were in the zone. Zero swings by Guerrero.

***

Pitch: 2.1

AG 2.1

Now in his second plate appearance, Guerrero faces talented reliever J.J. Putz. Putz’s first pitch is a fastball — neither particularly low nor particularly inside, but a ball. Once again, Guerrero takes. That’s five pitches with zero swings, now.

***

Pitch: 2.2

AG 2.2

Putz’s second pitch is also a fastball and also a ball. Guerrero takes this, as well. Perhaps realizing that he’s now refrained from offering at the first six pitches he’s seen in what amounts to his major-league debut, Guerrero is compelled to signal, by means of a head shake, that he’s seen nothing to his liking thus far:

AG Headshake After 2.2

***

Pitch: 2.3

AG 2.3

On the seventh pitch to him — a fastball on the outer half of the plate — Guerrero records his first swing, sending the ball into the stands along the first-base line. At 14.3%, Guerrero’s swing rate remains 20 percentage points below the lowest figure among qualified batters from 2013.

***

Pitch: 2.4

AG 2.4

Zut frigging alors: a second consecutive swing. This is the fourth fastball thrown by Putz in four pitches, the location of this pitch not entirely different than the second pitch of Guerrero’s at-bat against McCarthy. Guerrero fouls this one off, as well. Some numbers through eight pitches: 25% Swing, 0% SwStrk, 0% O-Swing.

***

Pitch: 2.5

AG 2.5

Of note regarding this ninth pitch: J.J. Putz has averaged about a 25% swinging-strike rate on his split-finger fastball over the last three-to-five years. The footage here demonstrates why: the pitch starts in the zone and then more or less disappears. This is probably the most impressive moment of Guerrero’s ten pitches faced, holding up his swing like this against Putz’s splitter. Still a 0% O-Swing through nine pitches.

***

Pitch: 2.6

AG 2.6

On his sixth pitch to Guerrero, Putz throws his fifth fastball of the at-bat — in this case, almost exactly through the middle of the strike zone. Guerrero swings for the third time out of the last four pitches, grounding the ball pretty harmlessly to second base. With 10 pitches faced now, Guerrero has a swing rate of 30% (still very low) and a swinging-strike rate of 0%. He does seem to have demonstrated a sense of patience — to the degree that any batter can do so over 10 pitches. Should he continue to produce merely a .000 BABIP, however, his prospects as a major leaguer are rather dim.




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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.


26 Responses to “Idle Observations from a Single Game of Alex Guerrero”

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  1. Eminor3rd says:

    You are so silly

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  2. John Axford's Mustache says:

    If feel like this belongs over in Notgraphs….not to say I didn’t enjoy it!

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  3. Elliot says:

    This is fun

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  4. walt526 says:

    “Should he continue to produce merely a .000 BABIP, however, his prospects as a major leaguer are rather dim.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kid_Who_Only_Hit_Homers

    .000 BABIP, but the 1.000 OBP and 4.000 SLG/ISO provided ample value.

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  5. Hunter Fischer says:

    I like how on pitch 2.4 the huge guy in the front row behind the plate ducks out of the way when the ball is fouled straight back, but the 3-year-old standing in the aisle barely flinches.

    Anyhow thanks for snippet, Piaf.

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  6. BaseballGuy says:

    Quick swing though. I bet he does OK in the end.

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  7. Bip says:

    I think pitch 2.3 was right over the middle of the plate, and up. If he wasn’t late, that was a pitch to drive, but he was quite late. Putz probably throws considerably harder than McCarthy.

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  8. rusty says:

    Any observations about his defensive ability, or did he just DH / not get any grounders in his zone?

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  9. Clayton says:

    I’m no scout, but the way he bends over while watching pitches go by makes me think he’s not seeing the ball that well.

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  10. Sean C says:

    I also am no scout, but he seemed to struggle with his body control on the first 2 of his 3 swings, as well as a few non-swings.

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  11. On pitch 2.2, perhaps the head shake was because he was thinking, “how the heck am I going to hit in the majors if everyone pitches like this?”

    Nice article, enjoyed it.

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  12. DodgersKings323 says:

    “What you play? Semi-pro?”

    Those of us without SportsNetLA thank you

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  13. Walter says:

    If I were a pitcher looking at those at-bats, I’d be trying to beat him with breaking stuff, if I could get mine over, and only “show” him fastballs in hard areas to hit. His laying off the splitter was impressive, but he sure looked more comfortable against fastballs than he did breaking balls.

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  14. Carlos Gomez says:

    He might actually be more animated when swinging than me. Maybe.

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  15. coldseat says:

    I can see why the Dodger F.O. is slightly panick’d – he doesn’t look all that major league ready. He shows decent speed running down the line, but his bat and D
    was just so much meh. Looks like this kid and Philly pitcher MAG might have been cuban reaches.

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